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Adding Fuel to Fire to an already Chaotic and Slippery Politics: The Case of Nebiyu Suhul Michael & his Friends in Tigray

IDEA Editorial                                                                       April 15, 2019

To all that follow the news and up-to-date information on Ethiopia, it is abundantly clear that the country is a shambles given the millions of people displaced in the Gedeo-Guji area of the Southern Regional State and the recent violent attack of innocent Ethiopians in the Amhara Regional State. These kind of violent incidents have been going on for the last three years, and the first victims of such kind of violence were the Tigrigna speakers, who were targeted in the Gondar and Oromia area and subsequently in different towns of the Amhara State, and as a result, thousands (slightly over 45,000) of Tigrawot (Tigrigna-speaking Ethiopians) were compelled to leave their homes, properties, and businesses behind and settle in Tigray Regional State.

At present, with the exception of the Gedeo humanitarian crisis and the menace of the marauding armed special-forces, the instability that has gripped Ethiopia for the last three years, and more so for the last year, seems to be subsiding. And to be sure, by contrast to all other Ethiopian regional states, the Tigray State has achieved and enjoyed relative peace and stability.

There is no doubt that Tigray has now become the envy for other Ethiopians in terms of attaining peace and promising development agenda, when uncertainty and fear hover over the majority of Ethiopians; and it is not without reason that major conferences such as that of women, health, teachers’, and most recently that of Ethiopian Youth Annual Sports were held in Tigray. By all measure, thus, Tigray has become an exemplar regional state.

However, the violent attack of Nebiyu Suhul Michael and his friends during the all-Ethiopia cleaning campaign day (April 14, 2019) could be a major setback for Tigray in general and the TPLF leadership in particular. The Institute of Development and Education for Africa (IDEA) is very much concerned about the use of excessive force and unnecessary violence against unarmed peaceful citizens and would like to convey a piece of advice by way of sending a clear message to the political leadership in Tigray.

The TPLF should encourage opposing ideas and discourses to flourish and not act as impediment to the cornerstones and contributing fabrics in the making of a democratic larger society. A genuine democracy requires free speech, free press, and peaceful demonstration and protestation, which, in turn, serve as solid foundations for a political culture of an open and free political debate. Moreover, the TPLF must shoulder responsibility in guaranteeing freedom to the people of Tigray within its jurisdictional sovereign territory.

The IDEA group has watched the interview of Nebiyu Suhul Michael conducted by Awramba Times on April 5, 2019 and the many social problems raised by the interviewee, in fact, should be viewed as constructive feedbacks to the Government of Tigray; they should not be perceived as negative and disturbing ideas; Nebiyu has raised serious political problems in Tigray, and those problems, after all, should be seen as a unified synthesis that must be confronted collectively. Therefore, the TPLF should embrace, rather than negate problems and solutions put forth and proposed by citizens.

If, on the other hand the TPF ignores the recommendations of citizens its’ very legitimacy could be questioned. Just a year ago, the TPLF confessed in public that it has committed egregious mistakes and the Ethiopian people in general and the people of Tigray in particular have extended forgiveness to the TPLF leadership. Now, with the violent attack of Nebiyu and his colleagues, the TPLF could easily squander the faith of the people, and its’ “newly restructured” organization could enter into contradiction with the people; in fact, the people who seek justice could stage protestations and demonstrations and these kind of movements could have multiple refractions throughout Tigray. We at IDEA propose that the TPLF leadership initiate a dialogue with Nebiyu and company, as well as with other opposing groups in Tigray. There is no need to add fuel to the fire and exacerbate the already chaotic and slippery political reality in Ethiopia. Extinguish the kindled fresh ember before it becomes a wild brush fire! Employ wisdom, not folly!

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